Back injuries are common and devastating. Back pain is the most common cause of missed work. The most common workers’ compensation claim comes from back pain. Nearly 65 million Americans of all ages reported having a recent bout of back pain.
Back injuries can limit your ability to carry your weight. They can also interfere with your ability to move your upper body. As a result, you could suffer temporary or permanent disabilities that reduce your ability to work or even meet your daily needs.
Read on to learn about back injuries and the compensation you can seek after suffering a back injury in an accident.
What Are the Structure and Functions of Your Back?
Your back supports the weight of your thorax, arms, and head. But the construction of your spine allows you to bend and twist your body.
The spine forms the centerpiece of your back. The spine can bend, flex, and twist because it includes 24 vertebrae. If the spine had a single rigid bone, you would have limited movement in your back. But since your spine has many smaller bones connected through joints, they can move relative to each other.
The top seven vertebrae — the cervical vertebrae — sit in the neck. Doctors call the next 12 vertebrae the thoracic vertebrae because these bones form a joint with the 12 ribs of your thorax.
The next five vertebrae form the lumbar spine in your lower back. The sacrum and coccyx sit below your lumbar spine. These fused vertebrae connect your spine to your pelvis and form your tailbone.
Each vertebra has a body and wing-shaped processes. When the bodies align, they form a column that supports your body weight. Ligaments and tendons attach to the processes. The ligaments hold the vertebrae together, and the tendons anchor back muscles to the spine.
The spinal canal sits between the bodies and the processes. The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal and includes all of the nerves connecting your brain to your body.
Discs sit between the vertebrae. Each disc has a fibrous outer annulus that surrounds a gel-like nucleus. The discs cushion the spine and give the vertebrae smooth, hard surfaces to move on.
Some of the largest muscles in your body sit in your back. Tendons anchor these muscles to your shoulder blades, spine, skull, ribs, and hips.
What Causes Back Injuries?
Back injuries can happen in all types of accidents. The trauma that causes back injuries usually falls into a few categories.
One of the most common causes of back injuries is hyperextension. Hyperextension occurs when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments stretch beyond their normal capacity.
Hyperextension can happen any time your back gets twisted or bent from the force of an accident. For example, in an auto accident, your body slides in your seat until it hits your seat belt. But your upper body and head keep moving, causing your back to arch forward.
Your back stretches under the force of the collision. This stretching force can hyperextend your back, causing injuries to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
As you come to a stop, your spine springs back. The compression force can crush vertebrae and discs together. This compression force can damage your discs and fracture your vertebrae.
Blunt Force Injury
A blunt force injury happens when your back hits something without causing an open wound. This force can fracture or dislocate your ribs and damage or dislocate your discs. A powerful blunt force can even fracture your ribs or vertebrae.
Blunt force injuries can happen in collisions. For example, a pedestrian accident can cause blunt force injuries in the initial collision with the vehicle or the subsequent collision with the ground.
Falls can also cause blunt force back injuries. You could suffer a blunt force injury when you fall onto your back in a slip and fall accident.
A penetrating injury happens when an object pierces your back. The penetrating injury can damage the tissue of your back and cause an open wound. A workplace accident could cause a penetrating injury if a machine ejects an object that penetrates your back.
Anytime you have a penetrating injury, you risk paralysis. The object can enter the spinal canal and sever or compress the spinal cord.
What Are Some Types of Back Injuries?
Back injuries can happen in many ways. Some examples of back injuries include:
Back Strain or Sprain
Back sprains happen when you tear or stretch the ligaments in your back. The ligaments between the vertebrae can get stretched or torn when you hyperextend your back.
Symptoms of a back sprain include:
- Back instability
- Limited range of motion
- Popping sensation when you got injured
Back strain results from stretched or torn tendons or muscles in your back. Hyperextension and blunt force injuries can cause back strain.
Symptoms of a back strain include:
- Muscle spasms
A sprained or strained back will usually heal with rest in six to eight weeks. Doctors rarely prescribe surgery for back strains or sprains.
A damaged disc can result from blunt force, hyperextension, or penetrating injuries. A damaged disc happens when the structure of your disc gets compromised.
A herniated disc happens when the fibers of the annulus separate and allow the nucleus to protrude from the disc. This herniation can press on nearby nerve roots or even the spinal cord.
A bulging disc occurs when the fibers of a damaged disc remain intact but weaken. The disc compresses into a flat shape, with the sides bulging into nearby nerves.
When a vertebra fractures, bone fragments can slip into the spinal canal. When a process fractures, the ligaments no longer hold the vertebra in place. It can dislocate into the spinal canal.
In either case, the bone can sever or compress the spinal cord. This injury will cause total or partial paralysis.
How Can You Get Compensation for a Back Injury?
You can seek injury compensation when you suffer a back injury due to someone else’s negligence. To establish negligence, you must show that someone owed you a duty of care and breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care, causing your back injury.
Compensation for a back injury can include economic and non-economic damages. To learn about the compensation you can seek for your back injury, contact an experienced Las Vegas injury attorney from Battle Born Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (702) 570-9000.